Many years ago when I was 20 my love of local food, and my passion for high quality craft brewed beer were being formed. I was a partner in a catering company and had been exposed to the inner workings of some of Toronto’s most prominent kitchens including Mark McEwan’s Pronto Ristornate. It was in the kitchen of Pronto that I was first exposed to the whole animal approach to menu development. I watched with interest as he and his team butchered a Lamb into the sought after Pronto mainstay of lamb sausages while carefully separating the rack from the torso, his team said the ‘key to both culinary experience and restaurant profitability is finding ways to use the whole animal’. When I attended a half day cooking workshop at Michael Stadtlander’s farm 13 years ago the completeness of use of both food and waste was prominent. I am delighted to see that the ideals of leaders in the local food movement have come to the fore of popular culture along with the availability of local craft brews.
While my love of local food was culminating I was enamoured by the diversity of flavour present in craft brewed beer. There were very few key players in this burgeoning industry. Upper Canada brewery was one of those few taking on the monopoly of Molson and Labatt on the shelves of the Beer store. My response to the lack of product available was to start brewing my own beer. I loved Toronto brew pub C’est What’s fantastic Coffee Porter, so I began roasting my own grains to include in adaptive recipes pushing past the available options at my UBrew. I played with recipes for personal enjoyment and convivial sharing with friends, emulating flavours found elsewhere.
Today, my passion for food and beer continues. It is common for me to turn down a spectacular wine experience in favour of local craft beer. I am the annoying customer who gives bartenders a lecture about local beer when craft options are unavailable, before ordering a locally produced wine instead. Today in Toronto I can find local food relatively abundantly at my local farmer’s markets and leading retail grocers like Fiesta Farms. When I enter the LCBO the selection of local craft brewed beers is substantial. Some of my favorites include Mill St. Coffee Porter and Tankhouse Ale, Steamwhistle’s Pilsner, Nickel Brook’s Cream Ale, Dennison Weis Beer, Beau’s Lugtread Lager, Wellington’s SPA and I especially love to see short run productions of seasonal beers on local taps.
Toronto has become home to Brewer’s Plate bringing together local food production causes, local celebrity chefs, and some of my favorite brewmasters. Legends Jamie Kennedy and Brad Long along with other prominent chefs pair local food with local craft brew at this outstanding event. The Beneficiary of last year’s event was my favorite local food startup, Not Far From The Tree. Laura Reinsorough the founder of the program is a gracious and endearing leader who’s strength is most evident in the reputation she has with her community of funding partners, volunteers and collaborators. If you are looking to get in touch with these convergent movements of local craft beer and local food take a look at the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and Local Food Plus as starting points in your discovery of local convivial flavour. See you tonight at Brewers Plate.